Providing medical homes and insurance to minority patients could help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, the Commonwealth Fund concluded in a report released today. A medical home provides patients with a regular physician or healthcare professional that oversees and coordinates their medical care, said Anne Beal, the funds senior program officer and one of the reports authors, at a news briefing to release the report. The reports findings were based on a 2006 survey of more than 2,830 adults.
Among those survey respondents with medical homes, 74% of whites, 76% of African Americans and 74% of Hispanics reported always getting the care they needed. Minority adults with a medical home also experienced no disparities in receiving preventive health reminders, which can improve rates of routine screening for heart disease and cancer.
In general, the survey respondents with medical homes reported greater levels of coordination by their provider than those with only a regular provider, and were better able to manage chronic conditions. Among the minorities surveyed, Hispanics were the least likely to have a medical home, only 15%, compared with 34% of African Americans, 28% of whites and 26% of Asian Americans.
The most challenging barrier to this issue is reimbursement, said Dora Hughes, health and education policy adviser for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and a panelist at the briefing. Right now we do not reimburse to coordinate care or pay for chronic disease management, she said. Hughes mentioned that several bills were moving on Capitol Hill to address racial and ethnic healthcare disparities. Legislation from Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) may be marked up in July, she said.
Another panelist, Garth Graham, HHS deputy assistant secretary for minority health, mentioned that HHS was planning on issuing a new policy to help hospitals improve their quality of care with a slant on cultural sensitivity. -- by Jennifer Lubell